ADS-B COUNT­DOWN

WITH THE CLOCK TICK­ING TO­WARD 2020, IT IS TIME TO GET SE­RI­OUS ABOUT EQUIP­PING FOR THE ADS-B MAN­DATE

Flying - - CONTENTS - By Stephen Pope

Why now is the time to get se­ri­ous about the FAA’s loom­ing 2020 equip­ment man­date, and a look at a range of ADS-B op­tions that might be right for you.

Re­mem­ber all the dire pre­dic­tions about the FAA’s up­com­ing ADS-B equip­ment man­date, the ones that warned air­craft own­ers of a pro­jected log­jam of nec­es­sary installation work as the Jan­uary 1, 2020, dead­line ap­proached? It’s look­ing more and more like those prog­nos­ti­ca­tions were spot on.

With a year and a half left to go be­fore the ADS-B dead­line, the sit­u­a­tion for gen­eral avi­a­tion ap­pears grim in­deed. Some 13,000 $500 re­bate checks out of a to­tal al­lot­ment of 20,000 went un­claimed when a gov­ern­ment pro­gram aimed at spurring ADS-B in­stal­la­tions ended last Septem­ber with­out gain­ing the hoped-for trac­tion. As of the last of­fi­cial count, only about 35,000 Part 23 gen­eral avi­a­tion air­planes have been equipped to fly in ADS-B airspace. That leaves well more than 100,000 air­planes still with­out ap­proved ADS-B Out avion­ics, a cir­cum­stance that is al­most cer­tain to lock a great many air­plane own­ers out of most con­trolled airspace as New Year’s revel­ers are rais­ing their Cham­pagne glasses on De­cem­ber 31, 2019. Some­where around 160,000 gen­eral avi­a­tion air­planes are listed on the FAA registry, but of course not even the most pes­simistic of ob­servers be­lieves that many air­planes need to be fit­ted with ADS-B Out avion­ics by the

dead­line. An un­known num­ber of light GA air­planes sit in the weeds with flat tires and fad­ing paint. For those own­ers, the ADS-B dead­line is just one of many wor­ries. The own­ers of many thou­sands more air­planes will sim­ply choose to fly out­side of ADS-B airspace, rea­son­ing that the cost to up­grade isn’t jus­ti­fi­able for older air­craft with low hull val­ues.

Among gen­eral avi­a­tion’s tur­bine ranks, the pic­ture ap­pears bleaker still. Busi­ness jets and tur­bo­props must fly in ADS-B airspace, and so equipage is an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity. Still, as of the last of­fi­cial FAA tally,

ONLY 5,800 TUR­BINE GA AIR­PLANES HAVE BEEN EQUIPPED FOR ADS-B AMONG A FLEET THAT NUM­BERS ABOUT 18,000.

only 5,817 tur­bine GA air­planes have been equipped for ADS-B among a fleet that num­bers about 18,000. Up­grad­ing newer busi­ness jets for ADS-B is a rel­a­tively straight­for­ward af­fair, and since 2014, most all new air­planes have rolled out of the fac­tory al­ready equipped. Slightly older air­planes with the lat­est avion­ics suites from Honey­well Aero­space, Garmin and Rock­well Collins of­ten re­quire only a soft­ware up­date or

some mi­nor hard­ware re­place­ments. The com­pli­ance cost for older biz­jets, mean­while, can eas­ily reach well above $100,000 for the needed ADS-B transpon­ders, WAAS GPS re­ceivers and antennas, all of which can also re­quire some se­ri­ous installation down­time, re­sult­ing in a ma­jor loss of rev­enue for some op­er­a­tors.

The de­ci­sion ma­trix for many air­plane own­ers seems to cen­ter on whether they will even choose to keep their air­planes beyond 2020. Many op­er­a­tors of older busi­ness jets and tur­bo­props say they are look­ing to up­grade to newer air­planes and so will forgo the ex­pense of ADS-B equipage in their cur­rent air­craft. That’s al­ready lead­ing to a dip in prices for air­planes not equipped for the ADS-B man­date ver­sus those that are, ex­perts say.

“We hear from a lot of own­ers of older busi­ness jets who tell us the val­ues of their air­planes sim­ply don’t jus­tify the ex­pense of equip­ping for the ADS-B man­date,” says Chris Benich, vice pres­i­dent of aero­space reg­u­la­tory affairs for Honey­well. “Some tell us they will sell the air­plane, which, of course, will be tougher to do with­out ADS-B. Oth­ers say they’re betting on the dead­line be­ing ex­tended.”

Of that lat­ter wa­ger, Benich quips, “Maybe that’s their strat­egy, but we tell them it’s not a good strat­egy.”

In­deed, the FAA has stated em­phat­i­cally time and again that the dead­line for ADS-B com­pli­ance is not go­ing to change. Con­sid­er­ing that the agency gave the avi­a­tion in­dus­try a decade to com­ply, and that avion­ics so­lu­tions are read­ily avail­able, shops can do the work and, per­haps most im­por­tant, the air­lines are on a path to achieve near to­tal com­pli­ance on time, there ap­pears to be very lit­tle chance that the man­date will be ex­tended beyond the orig­i­nal Jan­uary 1, 2020, start date.

If you’re one of the many thou­sands of air­plane own­ers who know you still need to equip for ADS-B but you’re on the fence as you per­haps wait for less ex­pen­sive al­ter­na­tives to emerge, here’s a piece of ad­vice we keep hear­ing from avion­ics shops that could end up sav­ing you from the heart­burn of miss­ing the dead­line: Call your shop now and at least sched­ule a date for your ADS-B up­grade, even if you’re not com­pletely set­tled on which so­lu­tion you’ll choose. A year and a half might seem like a long time, but the closer we get to the dead­line, the busier shops will be­come. This game of avion­ics mu­si­cal chairs surely will end badly for some; you want to be sure you have your seat when 2020 rolls over on the com­pli­ance cal­en­dar.

There’s also still a fair amount of con­fu­sion among some air­plane own­ers about just what ADS-B is and what’s re­quired where. That’s not too sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing that the rule it­self is some­what opaque, with op­tions for 1090 ex­tended squit­ter (ES) ver­sus 978 MHz uni­ver­sal ac­cess trans­ceivers (UAT) and the need for a “valid po­si­tion source” (i.e., a WAAS GPS re­ceiver), not to men­tion the dif­fer­ences be­tween ADS-B In and ADS-B Out, and why you must equip with Out avion­ics but you might want to equip with both In and Out to reap the full ben­e­fits of the Next Gen tech­nol­ogy.

Here’s a quick primer in case you don’t re­mem­ber your UAT from your ES: First, ADS-B Out is a new tech­nol­ogy for ATC traf­fic sur­veil­lance, while ADS-B In is the “nice to have but not re­quired” tech­nol­ogy that shows you the lo­ca­tion of other traf­fic and pro­vides you with sub­scrip­tion-free FIS-B weather in­for­ma­tion (see side­bar). ADS-B is a satel­lite­based re­place­ment for old-fash­ioned sur­veil­lance radar that pro­vides greater ac­cu­racy and there­fore will al­low ATC to pack more air­planes into a given block of airspace for greater sys­temwide ef­fi­ciency. It is one of the key ele­ments of the Next Gen air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem we’ve all heard and read so much about.

If you know you’ll never fly in Class A airspace (FL 180 and above) or in­ter­na­tion­ally, you can stick with a sim­pler UAT-based ADS-B Out box, which broad­casts over 978 MHz. If you don’t have a WAAS GPS re­ceiver to pro­vide po­si­tion in­for­ma­tion, the unit will have to in­clude it, which most sys­tems sold to­day thank­fully of­fer as stan­dard or as a low-cost op­tion. There’s a long list of ADS-B Out choices for pis­ton GA air­planes, rang­ing in price from around $1,500 up to about $6,000, plus installation

DE­SPITE WISH­FUL THINK­ING BY SOME, THE FAA HAS STATED EM­PHAT­I­CALLY THAT THE ADS-B COM­PLI­ANCE DATE ISN’T GO­ING TO CHANGE.

costs. For air­planes that fly in Class A airspace or in­ter­na­tion­ally, those own­ers will need a Mode C or S transpon­der with ex­tended squit­ter ca­pa­bil­ity broad­cast over the 1090 MHz datalink. Typ­i­cally, th­ese units are more ex­pen­sive, and some­times a whole lot more ex­pen­sive, again, if you need to up­grade mul­ti­ple boxes and add new antennas.

Many but not all of the more af­ford­able ADS-B Out sys­tems for GA also in­clude op­tional ADS-B In ca­pa­bil­i­ties, al­low­ing you to dis­play traf­fic and weather on a va­ri­ety of panel-mount and tablet dis­plays. If you’re look­ing for a full ADS-B so­lu­tion with a ded­i­cated in-cock­pit dis­play, you can have that too. The cost will be some­what higher, but con­sid­er­ing how of­ten you’ll be ref­er­enc­ing the ADS-B-sup­plied data, it can be a sound in­vest­ment.

Once your avion­ics shop has in­stalled your new ADS-B Out gear you’ll also need to fly a test flight to en­sure ATC can cor­rectly iden­tify your air­plane. Be care­ful here. Of 39,163 GA air­planes equipped with ADS-B avion­ics as of April 1, only 35,536 of them were con­sid­ered “good in­stalls” by the FAA. Be sure to do your home­work be­fore se­lect­ing an ADS-B equip­ment so­lu­tion, and talk through the up­grade with your in­staller to avoid any nasty surprises.

HERE’S A LOOK AT SOME POP­U­LAR ADS-B EQUIP­MENT OP­TIONS AND WHY THEY MIGHT BE THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR AIR­PLANE

ADS-B is a sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy in which air­craft po­si­tion is de­ter­mined by satel­lite and broad­cast to ATC and other nearby air­craft. It will re­place sec­ondary sur­veil­lance radar for air­craft sep­a­ra­tion as a key com­po­nent of the NextGen ATC sys­tem.

Prices for ADS-B avion­ics have come down, but the cost to equip an older busi­ness jet can eas­ily ex­ceed $100,000.

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